So for my first post on Sharksworld I have started what will be a weekly wrap up and an ongoing prediction of the log at the end of the season… It will hopefully be out on Mondays going forward but right now, better late than never!
And so there were 7 unbeaten teams left! The last month of speculation yielded similar results to predicting Lotto numbers and the first week of the 2010 Super 14 is now behind us. An interesting weekend where the biggest talking point won’t be the rugby but the new laws and the refs’ interpretation of them. (Note to self: Try be neutral in the Sharks review, judge the rugby and try not blame the *&%$ (@&(£ @$* %£$ ref. I will do my best.)
Blues (20) vs Hurricanes (34)
After the first 10 minutes, and loads of penalties, the game eventually proved one thing – the importance of the flyhalf role. 14 men dressed in Blue were exactly as good as Stephen Brett the entire game. Brett started off sublimely and the Blues were 20-6 up at one point. As if he was making sweet lovingness to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, he lasted 30 minutes and then went to sleep. And with that came the end to the Blues challenge (no pun intended). The Canes scored 28 unanswered points and won comfortably in the end. Brett needs to be more like a porn star and last 80 minutes if the Blues are to perform in this tournament and the Canes looked ok once they got going in the 2nd 40. The Blues started their season with 0 log points while the Canes did no harm to their pre-tournament tags as a good bet for the final 4. Quote of the weekend, “he is digging in that ruck that like a home sick mole.”
Force (15) vs Brumbies (24)
This game was a lot closer than the score suggests. It would have been an absolute hiding had the Brumbies had their star signings. Giteau pulled out on Thursday while Rocky Elsom was withdrawn on Friday morning which was exactly too late and cost me huge as he was in my fantasy rugby side. With a name like that you need to harden the f%$* up Rocky! The Brumbies do look good though and all the hype of them being the top Australian contenders seem to be true as their competition, the Tahs, seem to have spent the off season doing everything but rugby. With Giteau and Elsom pretty much certain to be back this week, they will be pretty good but will go through the rugby equivalent of hell when they face the Blue machine at Loftus. Good luck sunshines. The Force’s threat on this year’s trophy is going to be as dangerous as a 5 year old girl with a lollipop. They will be good workout games for a lot of teams but I doubt they will threaten the top 12 of the log. They fly to New Zealand to face Hurricane Nonu and co this weekend. BP on the cards.
Cheetahs (34) vs Bulls (51)
If the Cheetahs played every game the way they play the Bulls, they would win more than they lose. The Boer-Boer war always seems to produce great rugby and this one was no different and easily the game of the week. Let’s be positive for the Bloem team. They managed to scored 3 tries and 34 points against a pretty mighty Bulls team though it must be noted that with 51 points on the board your defense is more Pearl Harbour than Normandy. The most ridiculous part of the match was when the timing of Nokwe grounding a deserved try was met with that of Stegmann’s swinging and unplanned right foot and the ball didn’t touch grass. That might just have changed things! I think the Sharks need to do a lot to beat this Cheetahs team on Friday night. Let’s however look at the Bulls. Scoring over 100 points in their last 2 Super 14 games including last year’s final, they are my MASSIVE favourites early on this year and have carried on from last year with no apparent break. Steyn dominated (which I give him full permission to continue to do for the next 20 months), Fourie was his usual perfection and I am sad to say Wynand Goldilocks got man of the match. That hurts me as much as Earl Rose getting the honour although we know that won’t happen in this lifetime. Bulls look lethal and betting against them is as foolish as awarding a penalty for offsides against a team that is in possession of the ball and hasn’t knocked it on.
Crusaders (32) vs Highlanders (17)
This game was a fresh reminder as why I hate Superbru so much. My prediction of 8 was spot on (25-17) in the 80th minute with Highlanders in possession. Jimmy so-easy-to-hate-that-face Cowan tried some kind of reverse backward flick pass across the field which the Saders collected and jogged over for a bonus point try and a 15 point victory, a margin and bonus point they certainly didn’t deserve. The game itself was like watching paint grow and grass dry. Carter marshaled for most of the game and they scored some lucky tries but the Saders always seem in control and in recent years they tend to only use 2nd or 3rd gear, whatever is required just to get over the hill. I still think they are the top Kiwi side but we will know for sure when they play the other top teams. That won’t happen this week when they travel to Queensland but the Reds might elicit a more exciting Saders game, a good game to watch! The Highlanders meanwhile face the Blues at home and might just cause an upset but as the bottom 2 New Zealand teams, who really cares (except for Superbru of course)?
Reds (28) vs Waratahs (30)
Well. This game certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons. I didn’t expect the Reds to be as proficient without Barnes and co and expected the Waratahs to look a lot better. An 81st minute Palu try left the Reds fans’ feeling like the Sharks’ but luckily their local supporters behave a lot better than the Durban scum. The Reds just don’t have the forwards to really set about a structured approach (that’s what will let them down against any decent team) and here they chose to play sevens rugby instead. It almost worked against a (hungover??) Tahs side which just had the class to pull them through in the end. I predicted last week that the Tahs will be in the semi finals but I can now safely assume I was wrong. They look good for a top 8 spot but maybe, just maybe, the Reds do too. The Reds host the Saders which they will feel pretty enthusiastic about until misery hits home during the 3rd quarter and Carter takes control. The Tahs have a very interesting game near a beer factory in Cape Town. More on that later.
Lions (13) vs Stormers (26)
What the hell was that game about? Except for 5 minutes before half time, the score was 13-12 to the Lions in 75 minutes of rugby that had the quality you would expect to see from an under 11 girls wheelchair team. The Stormers fans must be wondering what happened during the 10 minutes between each half. Instead of Rassie Erasmus giving the half-time team talk, some Indian bookie had a little chat and told them not to score any more points. Fans need to pray that the 2nd half performance by the Stormers is the worst they play all season because if they had been playing against an actual rugby team, they would have been in serious trouble. I think this is also the last year we will see the Lions come 14th because from next year, they will be coming 15th. They are pathetic and so is Carlos Spencer who thought he was playing trick rugby and failed. The Lions are hosting a Chiefs try scoring practice session at Ellis Park this weekend while the Stormers host the Waratahs. The result of the latter is going to set one team up for a decent season while the other team might start to panic. If the Tahs win in Cape Town, Stormers are going to really struggle for the next 13 weeks while if they manage to lift their game and win, it will give them a kick start. Whatever happens this Saturday, right now both these teams have 4 points under their belt and are somehow undefeated. In 5 days time, I think the blue team will win.
Sharks (18) vs Chiefs (19)
Really not sure what to say about this game without blaming 2 complete morons, the ref and Bismark du Plessis. The ref certainly played a part but let’s pretend he did know what he was doing. The Sharks had the wrong team on the park and weren’t helped by the loss of Muller and Mostert before half time. The only time Keegan Daniels and Ryan Kankowski like tight, wet games is with a lady. They really don’t do well in these kinds of conditions and Botes made that show when he came on the field and improved things massively. Also making a difference was the half-fit Ruan Pienaar who has no choice but will now be flyhalf for the season and hopefully stays fit if the Sharks hope to position themselves in single figures on the log. Monty Dumond should be playing rugby on Monday nights though. The Chiefs seemed to hang in there for the first half and would have had their first try early in the 2nd half if it weren’t for the best defensive wing in the tournament, JP Pieterson who just needs to learn how to attack now. The Sharks were kept in the game and eventually put 9 points clear through Terblanche’s solidity at fullback and Kockott’s goal kicking. In the 74th minute, Bismark du Plessis then embarked on an act of stupidity at a level that would, in a corporate environment, warrant a CCMA hearing and cost his team the game. The Sharks did show for 2 and a half seconds that they could be a decent side with Kockott and Pienaar running the show and suddenly the importance of Ruan is similar to Steyn for the Bulls and Carter for the Saders. I do however think that the Sharks need to be realistic now and aim to win 3 of their next 6 games which, with their tour, is going to be tough. If they lose to the Cheetahs this weekend their season is over before it began! The Chiefs, however, look like they are going to be on the higher parts of the log and this Friday night I expect the Circus Lions to concede more than a Paul Harris spell.
So, after one weekend of rugby, I have revised my predictions for the log at the end of the season:
Sharks/Stormers (Tied to avoid controversy right now. We can all hope right?)